Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Corp. CEO Bill Johnson has issued a public apology for a party the company threw at a Northern California winery for major clients on the eve of blackouts affecting hundreds of thousands of people.
The San Francisco Chronicle broke the story on Friday:
PG&E confirmed that 10 to 12 employees on the gas side of the business were mingling with 50 to 60 of their top customers at a winery in Sonoma County on Monday and Tuesday. It was in the run-up to PG&E’s unprecedented power shut-offs for hundreds of thousands of customers this week, a highly controversial act that could cost the California economy $2.6 billion by some estimates and even put people in harm’s way.
For those living near the posh venue, Tuesday had another meaning. Two years earlier, PG&E power poles ignited a series of deadly and destructive wildfires across Wine Country — including blazes that burned in Sonoma County.
Bill Johnson, CEO of the utility’s parent company PG&E Corp., admitted to the event in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle on Thursday. He described it as a colossal mistake in poor taste and promised it would never happen again.
The Wine Country fires of 2017 were among the deadliest in the state’s history.
After even worse fires in both Northern and Southern California in 2018, some of which have been blamed on faults in PG&E power transmission lines, the company declared bankruptcy.
However, it still found time to party with its biggest customers on the eve of blackouts in the Sacramento and San Francisco Bay Area that caused schools and businesses to close and inconvenienced thousands of households.
The blackouts were described as a new precaution to prevent future fires in dry, windy conditions. Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state government were also criticized for apparently failing to develop a contingency plan.
PG&E reported Friday that power had been restored to most customers — but tens of thousands in Wine Country were still in the dark.
Separately, fires in northern Los Angeles county forced the evacuation of 100,000 residents Friday.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.